I lived for three weeks in Kulgu, Estonia – a makeshift community known as “Narva Venice” on the Russian border that lines a series of artificial canals. Crackling power lines criss cross the neighborhood, emitting a noxious crackling above one’s head. As a residency project, I placed three electrical boxes around Kulgu, each connected to a wooden totem of an animal that used to be common in the Kulgu area. They respectively represent a Black-throated loon, a White-backed woodpecker, and a European green frog. Next to the droning sounds of power lines over Kulgu, these totems play their animal calls in an endless, lonesome repetition to fill in the sonic environment. On each electrical box, there is a microphone for community members to record a 15 second message of their own, which will then possess the wood animal and play through its mouth on repeat for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, the totem speaks with its own call again. Playing in a loop, the totems are lonely devices, calling out even when they may not have a listener, binding the voices of community members and wildlife to the physical fabric of Narva Venice. Entangled in each totem is a negotiation between Kulgu’s human and non-human inhabitants – the community voices of Kulgu. In this environment, which was never intended to support the vibrant life thriving here today, this work imagines an avenue for residents to conceive a similarly vibrant soundscape for Kulgu, meditating on the kinds of life, feelings and connections that might exist here in sound.
Locals ended up recording things from snippets of songs, to cat noises, to neighborhood announcements, to threats, to poetry recitations and more
© 2023 all rights reserved Mohar Kalra.